Kyle Busch Is Top Honoree During Cup Series Banquet

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Kyle Busch receives his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship ring from NASCAR's Jim France during Thursday's NASCAR Cup Series Awards event in Nashville, Tenn. (Dave Moulthrop Photo)
Kyle Busch receives his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship ring from NASCAR's Jim France during Thursday's NASCAR Cup Series Awards event in Nashville, Tenn. (Dave Moulthrop Photo)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Love him or hate him, Kyle Busch was the man of the hour during Thursday’s NASCAR Cup Series Awards held at Nashville’s Music City Center.

Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing team owner Joe Gibbs and crew chief Adam Stevens were honored as the champions of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Thursday. It was Busch’s second time at the head of the table while Gibbs was making his fifth appearance as a champion car owner.

Busch, 34, collected five NASCAR Cup Series victories this year, including one in the season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway that allowed him to capture his second series championship.

The Las Vegas native began his speech by remembering J.D. Gibbs, the son of team owner Joe Gibbs who died in January following a long battle battle with a degenerative neurological disease.

“Challenges in life are inevitable. Being defeated is optional,” Busch said. “Through unimaginable loss, the legacy of J.D. Gibbs was felt throughout everything we did at Joe Gibbs Racing. While we raced with heavy hearts, we determined not to be defeated.

“We raced with never any more motivation to win, but every single person back at the shop dug a little bit deeper and gave a little bit more each and every week even though we raced with heavy hearts.

“Obviously the results speak for themselves.”

Busch made sure to thank all of NASCAR’s fans for watching the sport each week, even if they aren’t always rooting for him.

“I certainly want to give a special shoutout to Rowdy Nation. I see all your gear every week at the race track and you guys ain’t afraid to show everyone who your driver is,” Busch said. “More importantly, I certainly want to thank all the NASCAR fans that watch us every week and that support us at the race track, no matter what finger you’re supporting me with.”

Busch closed his speech by speaking directly to his wife, Samantha Busch, whom Busch revealed has gone through multiple failed in vitro fertilization attempts this year as the pair attempted to have their second child. Samantha Busch gave birth to the couple’s son, Brexton, in 2015 after going through in vitro fertilization.

“I’m right here with you knowing how hard it has been to go through multiple failed attempts of IVF this year,” Busch said. “To walk around and try to face people week after week is always difficult knowing in the back of my mind how helpless I feel in life knowing how much I wanted to answer your prays to be able to give you a gift of our baby girl.

“While those loses way on us each and every day, I also want to reflect on the many blessings we do have in our lives. To the biggest one, which is our love for our amazing son Brexton, you guys are my rock and my place of piece. I thank you for being there for me as I’ll always be there for you in the toughest of times when we need each other the most.

“You are not only the greatest mother, but of course the greatest supporter and greatest wife I will ever have.”

As an owner, Gibbs had about as good a season as anyone could have hoped for. His four drivers, including Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones, won 19 of 36 races on the schedule to set a series record for wins by one team during a season.

Busch, Truex and Hamlin all advanced to the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, with Busch claiming the title, Truex finishing second and Hamlin finishing the season in fourth.

Joe Gibbs received the Bill France Award of Excellence on Thursday night at the NASCAR Cup Series Awards. (Dave Moulthrop Photo)
Joe Gibbs received the Bill France Award of Excellence on Thursday night at the NASCAR Cup Series Awards. (Dave Moulthrop Photo)

“We know that you win with people, so I know that any success we’ve had at Joe Gibbs Racing is because of the employees, the talent, the people we have that really care and the loyalty. I just want to say thanks to all of you guys,” Gibbs said.

“It’s an honor for us to be in NASCAR. We get a chance to go to the race track each weekend and race against these owners that I have so much respect for. I can’t believe I have a chance to do that. It’s a thrill for us,” Gibbs added.

Gibbs also took time during his speech to pay tribute to his late son J.D. Gibbs.

“We appreciate so much the fans, the teams, the sponsors, NASCAR for all the notes, all the letters, the little stories about J.D. and all the prayers. We thank you so much for all of that that was sent our way,” Gibbs said. “We miss him, but we could feel his spirit all year long.”

In addition to being honored as the champion owner, Gibbs was honored with the Bill France Award of Excellence. The award is given sporadically, with the most recent recipient being Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2017.

“You guys ought to give somebody a heads up. I had no idea this was going to happen,” Gibbs said after receiving the award. “We just appreciate everything about this sport. We were welcomed here. I was so worried about coming into NASCAR and not knowing people. This NASCAR family welcomed us in and it’s been a thrill for us.”

Also honored during the NASCAR Cup Series Awards on Thursday were the drivers who finished second through fourth in the standings – Truex, Kevin Harvick and Hamlin. Each had the opportunity to address the room and discuss their seasons and look ahead to 2020.

Two other major awards were handed out during the NASCAR Cup Series Awards. Three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Darrell Waltrip was named the winner of the NMPA Myers Brothers Award and Chase Elliott received the NMPA Most Popular Driver Award for the second-straight season.

In addition, Joe Vaughn, a longtime volunteer and leader with the South Carolina-based Project HOPE Foundation that serves the autism community, was announced Thursday night as the winner of The NASCAR Foundation’s Ninth Annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award.